The trial court has entered judgment in your case. Now what? This series of articles will examine some common questions on appeals to Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court (or Law Court) in civil cases.
How Much Time Do I Have to File an Appeal?
An appeal must be filed within 21 days after the entry of judgment. This is a very important deadline. Failure to file a Notice of Appeal within 21 days will, with few exceptions, result in the loss of your right to appeal.
The Trial Judge Ruled Against me on a Motion Before Trial. Can I Appeal?
Generally speaking, you can only appeal at the end of the case, once the trial court has issued a “final judgment.” In simple terms, a final judgment is an order by the court that resolves all of the issues in the case. This occurs after a trial or, in some cases, when the court dismisses the case or enters judgment in favor of one of the parties.
This means that many of the decisions the trial court makes leading up to and during a trial cannot be appealed until the case is over, even if the court’s decision greatly affects your chances of success at trial. For example, if the judge decides that a document important to your case cannot be admitted in evidence at trial, you cannot immediately appeal. If you do not win at trial, you may then appeal the trial court’s earlier decision to exclude the document from evidence.
There are a few rare situations where the Law Court will accept an appeal from a decision that does not resolve the whole case. These exceptions are fairly technical. You should seek legal advice before filing such an appeal.
Future articles in this series will address other common questions about Law Court appeals, including the length of the appeal process and the legal standards the Law Court will use in deciding the appeal. The articles in this series are intended to provide general information and are not a substitute for legal advice. If you have questions about the appeals process or need to appeal a court decision, please contact Rudman Winchell.